The new ODR 100 D’Lite has footswitchable Clean, Overdrive, and Boost controls. Front-panel controls include Volume, three mini toggles—BR1/BR2, Norm/Deep, and Lean/Fat—Treble, Mid, Bass, Drive and Level for the
Overdrive function, and Master and Presence knobs.
The slogan on Brown Note’s MySpace page
reads, “Guitar Amps That Don’t Suck.”
Judging by the number of guitarists who
flock to the Fair Oaks, California, company’s
demo room at the annual New York and Los
Angeles Amp Shows, that’s something of an
Brown Note’s founder is Moss Hudson.
Rather than follow the conventional path
into amp manufacturing—one that typically
begins with learning the ropes doing
repairs and mods—Hudson made his name
by selling kit amps to DIYers. Eventually,
he added assembled amps to the offerings
and now Brown Note has a full product line,
ranging from low-wattage tone machines to
The DIY ethos can be traced back to
Hudson’s youth. After obtaining the Radio
Shack 101 Electronics Projects Kit, Hudson
became an electronics freak. He took pleasure
in converting battery-powered board
games to AC power, giving the board game
Operation a whole new meaning. And as
a teen, Hudson went to school with a kid
whose dad had “all this cool stuff—guitars,
electronics, and stereos.” It turned out the
kid’s father was Sammy Hagar. Inspired by
what he saw, Hudson scraped together
enough money to buy an imported guitar
and snagged a Magnavox console stereo
his neighbor was getting ready to trash.
Determined to find a way to make use of
the Magnavox, Hudson summoned what he
could remember from the Radio Shack kit’s
“Big Ear” amplifier circuit to build a crude
guitar amp. That initial project planted the
seeds for Hudson’s amp-building business.
What’s the origin of Brown Note amps?
I got started offering supplies to do-it-yourselfers.
In 2000, inspired by sites like ampage.com and 18watt.com, I really got
involved with the DIY craze. I was the first
to offer an 18-watt kit based on the lead
channel of the Marshall 1974X, and then,
as far as I know, I was the first to offer an
Overdrive Special-type kit—the D’Lite.
How much electronics knowledge does
someone buying a kit need to assemble it?
I’d say almost none. I know of people who
have never even heated a soldering iron
who just decided to try it and were totally
How long does it take to build a kit amp?
A guy who is really cooking could have
an amp kit up and running in a week, yet
another guy might take six months to a
year to complete it. If you decide to tackle
a kit with no experience, you need to
approach the project slowly and methodically—
and ask a lot of questions. After
you’ve built three or four kits, you could
easily assemble one in a weekend.
What are the differences between your
kits and the assembled amps you sell now?
The back of the ODR 100 features convenient power-tube bias-adjusting controls (top), as well as an Impedance selector, FX Loop, an OD Gain Trim
control for adjusting the amount of footswitchable gain, three mini toggles—OD (which switches between clean and overdrive), MID (for mid boost), and
PAB (for a preamp boost)—and a 5-pin jack for the footswitch (bottom).
The whole idea with the kit is to provide a
really high-quality product and make it as
affordable as possible. My other goal is to
simplify the building process, so someone
who is just starting out can put one together.
Fortunately, simplified circuits end up
sounding really good. With the Brown Note
amp line, our approach is to offer as high-quality
an amp as possible and include all
the things customers want, like an effects
loop and reverb.
So a customer can’t get reverb and an
effects loop in a kit?
Our kits are streamlined for the sake of
cost and ease of assembly. That said, we
now have a reverb retrofit kit and effects
loop kit available, and we also offer a footswitching
kit. For more ambitious builders,
we offer kits with add-ons to bring the
level of the DIY features closer to our production
By making affordable kits available, you
probably reduce the temptation for someone
to open up one of your production
amps and copy it.
Even if you try to keep it a secret, people
are going to find out what’s under the
hood anyway. We follow more of an open-source
model. That’s cool because it’s like
a community—a collaborative effort with
hundreds of great minds working together
and sharing knowledge.
Has anybody come up with a kit mod that
you’ve integrated into your designs?
Norm Feaster worked with me closely in
developing the D’Lite kit and had some
great ideas we put into use, and Scott
Lerner was very helpful. There’s Gil Ayan,
who came up with a cool treble-bleed
circuit I use, and Alfonso Hermida who
worked with me on a ported cabinet
design. The Hall VVR, Iron Sounds FX
Loop, and Ampdoc 3-relay board are aftermarket
items you can add to your amp kit.
A lot of guys have really tricked out their
build and done cool stuff. In some cases,
their mods mirror what we’re doing with
our production amps.